With our planet in a crisis, being more sustainably aware is on the minds of many these days - even when it comes to getting a tattoo. As a vegetarian, vegan, or merely an earth-conscious individual, you may be wondering whether there is such a thing as a vegan tattoo, and how you can get one. We’ve got your cruelty-free back; dive in to learn all about vegan tattooing.
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 What Are Tattoo Inks Made From?
- 2 Are Tattoo Inks Safe?
- 3 What Are the Risks of Regular Tattoo Ink?
- 4 Are Vegan Tattoo Inks Better?
- 5 What Elements Need to Be Vegan?
- 6 How to Get a Vegan Tattoo
- 7 Our Final Thoughts
What Are Tattoo Inks Made From?
Most tattoo inks are made from a colored pigment distilled with a soluble solution such as water or alcohol. The problem is that many of these pigments on the market may be made with glycerin, which is an animal byproduct!
Unless stated as being specifically plant-based gelatin on the ingredient list, you have to assume that the gelatine used comes from an animal. In fact, gelatine is the charred and powdered bones of animals and insects - gross!
In addition, inks could contain any one of the following:
- Fish oil
- Crushed insect shells
- Hoof gelatin
- Animal by-product glycerin
Are Tattoo Inks Safe?
Not all tattoo pigments are made equal, so some can actually cause skin concerns or long-term health issues. Many cheap tattoo inks are made with chemicals or heavy metals which are known to trigger allergic reactions, blood problems, or be linked to additional health concerns. Read all about heavy metals in ink in our article, Do All Tattoos Contain Heavy Metals Like Lead and Mercury?
Along with ingredient concerns for cheaper inks, many animal enthusiasts wouldn’t consider the inclusion of animal byproducts as being safe, either. Of course, these do not pose any health risks, but they do pose risks to the environment.
In general, the FDA has not standardized tattoo pigments, so you should always do your due diligence and research the product, yourself. It’s generally safe to say that tattoos which advertise as being vegan and cruelty-free tend to contain less chemicals or toxic byproducts in their formulas.
What Are the Risks of Regular Tattoo Ink?
If your tattoo contains harmful chemicals, metals, or questionable ingredients, you put yourself at risk for the following:
- Allergic Reactions - This is the most common symptom of tattoo ink that has a toxicity level that doesn’t agree with your body. These allergic reactions may not develop right away, but over time as a continuously itchy tattoo.
- Infection and Disease - You cannot guarantee how your body will react to tattoo pigment, no matter how safe you may think it is. An irritated wound could turn into an infected wound that leads to other skin or health issues.
- Scarring - If the pigment used does not agree with your body, your immune system response may be to react in strange and complex scarring that distorts your tattoo.
Are Vegan Tattoo Inks Better?
In general, vegan tattoo inks not only advertise that they’re cruelty-free but also that they’re non-toxic and free from harmful chemicals, making them safer and more trusted options for both artists and those getting tattooed.
If you’re looking for the best pigments on the market, we’ve got you covered with our thorough review list. We rounded up our favorite vegan formulas that also stress the safety of their ingredients.
Of course, you’ll never know what’s better or safer for you until you perform a patch test with the pigment. Everybody is different and every immune system response is diverse as well. You’ll only know what’s safest for you once you’ve read and researched the ingredients list of your tattoo ink.
Here is a list of vegan tattoo ink brands:
- Alla Prima Ink
- Classic Color Systems
- Electric Ink USA
- Fusion Tattoo
- Good Color
- I Max Tattoo Inks
- Intenze Tattoo Ink
- Kuro Sumi
- Silverback Ink
- Skin Candy Bloodline
- Southeast Tattoo Supplies
- Stable Color
- World Famous Tattoo
What Elements Need to Be Vegan?
If you’re looking for a truly cruelty-free tattooing experience, your research doesn’t stop at just the tattoo pigment! There are so many additional elements of the tattooing experience that could be questionable.
- Stencils and Transfer Paper - Believe it or not, some stencil paper is not vegan! Sometimes these stencil papers can contain lanolin, which is a byproduct of sheep’s skin and wool. According to vegan sources, the only certified vegan tattoo transfer paper on the market is Spirit Thermal Tattoo Transfer Paper, which uses vegetable waxes instead of animal byproducts.
- Aftercare Products - Speaking of lanolin, many tattoo aftercare soaps, ointments, lotions, and creams contain this animal byproduct or other ingredients that are not vegan. Look specifically for products that say “vegan” or “cruelty-free” on the label.
- Razors - Did you know that razors could also be questionable? Some razors are made by companies with no consideration for ocean preservation. In addition, sometimes the moisturizing strip is made from glycerin which, unless it is stated that it is vegetable glycerin, is certainly derived from animal bones. Who knew!
How to Get a Vegan Tattoo
Many shops these days will advertise that they are a completely cruelty-free environment for your tattooing needs. When they don’t, you can take this research into your own hands to make sure you are getting a vegan tattoo.
Call the Shop Ahead of Time
Do your due diligence and ask the shop about the products they are using, especially the tattoo ink. Feel free to mention that you are vegan and they may be able to discuss options with you to suit your needs.
Bring Your Own Supplies
It never hurts to make your own vegan purchases and bring your own supplies to the consultation and your session! Make sure your tattoo artist is comfortable with this option, first.
Invest in Vegan Aftercare Products
Look for soaps and moisturizers that say “cruelty-free” or “vegan” on the packaging, and be sure to patch test these products prior to using them on your new tattoo. Lucky for you, we only ever recommend the best products to our readers.
Our Final Thoughts
Your tattooing experience can absolutely be a completely cruelty-free and vegan experience, it’s just a matter of dedicating some time to research the products being used by your artist and shop. A vegan tattoo is still a high-quality tattoo that’s not only safer for you but for the environment. If your local shop doesn’t seem to offer vegan alternatives, don’t hesitate to discuss investing in your own supplies with them; you may find they are very open to the idea!